Ever sign a contract ? It’s a promise. It’s a legally binding agreement between two parties. If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain there are legal repercussions.
Whether or not your in business or not you likely have a good idea as to how business works. And so most of us understand how a contract works.
But what about 4,000 years ago? And why does God walking in between dead animals change everything about our lives. I mean everything.
So 4,000 years ago they called it a covenant. And to enter into a covenant with someone you cut animals in half. I know it’s gruesome but I can’t change what they did I can only tell you about it. They typically used a cow, ram, goat or dove. This was called a blood covenant and after they cut the animals in half they would lay them in a formation to form an aisle.
This is where the term “cut a deal” came from. Each party would stand on either side of the cut in two animals and then they would walk in between the animals one at a time. Each person would say the following phrase, “May I become like these animals if I fail to uphold my end of the covenant.”
This was serious stuff. They weren’t messing around.
So why am I telling you all this? Because something happens in Genesis Chapter 15 that is so revolutionary, so mind blowing that somehow most of us have missed it. And why did we miss it? Because we tend to read scripture literally rather than digging deep and learning what’s really going on behind the scenes. Unless you really dig deep and study the culture of the Hebrew people 4,000 years ago you will miss something so huge that I will venture to say your life may never be the same after learning this.
Abraham is in a situation many of us have found ourselves in many, many times. He’s having a hard time trusting God. God tells Abraham he’s going to bless him and Abraham makes up a bunch of excuses as to why he’s not so sure God is really going to bless him.
God takes Abraham outside and shows him the stars. “So shall your offspring be.” In other words, trust me I got this. The next verse reads, “Abram believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now here’s where this is about to get really interesting. In that time period Ancient Near Eastern people sacrificed animals to please the angry gods. Many people in that period did not believe in God, rather they believed in “gods” plural. And they believed they had to sacrifice animals to keep these angry gods, well, less mad at them.
But the author in Genesis wants you to know something that was a completely revolutionary idea for this time period. This God doesn’t want anything, this God wants to DO something for Abraham. It was completely unheard of. People did things “for” the gods, but a God that wanted to do things FOR people? it was unheard of.
And Abraham believes it. There’s a very simple yet profound lesson just in those words. Abraham believed it.
So now God continues to make Abraham more promises. He tell him he’s going to give him some land. Abraham asks God, “How can I know I will gain possession of it?”
And guess how God responds?
“Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram…”
See where I’m going with this? Covenant. God is going to make a covenant with Abraham and he’s going to do it in a way that is relatable to Abraham. The scripture continues to say that Abraham went and got the animals and cut them in half. God didn’t need to tell Abraham to cut them in half, he already knew. This was normal.
Now I hope you’re still with me, because here is the mind blowing part. In verse 17 it tells us that God appeared in the form of a smoking firepot with a blazing torch and passed between the pieces.
Is that the end of the story?
Yes. But it’s what didn’t happen that is mind blowing.
Abraham never walked in between the pieces.
Remember, a covenant required both parties participation. But only God walks in between the animal pieces.
Why? because God was committing to upholding both ends of the deal. This God didn’t need Abraham to make any promises because this God was making a promise to do something irregardless of what Abraham did. Even if Abraham didn’t do his part, this God would remain faithful.
The story invites us to learn something so profound about God’s character that it’s life changing. God invites Abraham to trust him. And even if Abraham makes a complete mess of things, this God will remain faithful.
And so it remains for us. This God says, trust me, I got this. I got you. Trust me.